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Two students suspended for guns at LHS

| October 20, 2006 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

Times have changed and so have the rules since students got away with leaving their rifles in their rigs outside Libby High School so they could hunt after school.

That's because a federal law prohibits any weapon on school property.

That law was broken twice last week, Libby High School principal Rik Rewerts told the school board during its Tuesday night meeting.

Rewerts suspended two students for three days, each for bringing rifles to school. No one was hurt and there was no malicious intent, he said.

Teachers spotted one rifle in a girl's vehicle and another in a boy's vehicle in the high school parking lot.

"They were in plain view," Rewerts said.

Students who bring guns to school can be brought before the school board and be expelled for the remainder of the school year.

"We look at each situation individually," Rewerts said. "There was no malice intended in both of these cases. They weren't waving them around in the air. We have to use common sense on the issue."

Both students' parents were asked to come to the school, and the rifles were turned over to them.

With hunting seasons open, Rewerts is concerned about the violation occurring more often.

"If this continues, we can expel students," he said. "It has to quit and quit now. We've announced it over the loudspeaker now for years. It's just that most of the time, it's an oversight. They're not trying to break the rules."

Rewerts remembers not too many years ago when bringing a rifle to school was not a big deal.

"It wasn't just kids," he said. "It was Libby in general. You could go to any parking lot and see guns in the windows of vehicles. That doesn't mean it's bad."

Nearly 15 school shootings involving numerous deaths and injuries in the United States since October 1997 prompted changes in the law.

The most noted school shooting was on April 20, 1999, when an 18- and 17-year-old killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 23 before killing themselves at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

The most recent was on Oct. 2 when a gunman took about a dozen girls hostage, killing five at a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County. The shooter was among the dead, and a number of people were injured.

Rewerts indicated that statistics show school shootings occur more often in rural areas.

"With easy access to rifles, it's more likely to happen," he said.